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Dads pose as children online to shame suspected sex predators in Cleveland

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 7:46 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - They call themselves Dads Against Predators - protecting kids and taking the law into their own hands.

Officials said they’re seeing the group make more and more videos in the Cleveland area recently.

But, are their efforts doing more harm than good?

19 Investigates talked to Cuyahoga County Prosecutors who say they want the group to stop what they’re doing.

The videos they post show a concerning movement that’s gaining popularity in the Cleveland area according to prosecutors.

The Dads pose as kids on dating sites and then set up meetings with older men they say are looking for sex.

The group going by “D.A.P.” adds new “catches” every few weeks.

Recent videos were recorded in the Walmart in the Steelyard Commons and Playhouse square.

The group confronting the suspected predator publicly shames the accused, often by yelling, “This man is here to meet a 13-year-old boy!”

We blurred the accused because they have not been charged or convicted of a crime.

That’s the problem with the whole idea-- according to Cuyahoga County Prosecutors.

Dave Frattare is the Commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children taskforce.

“They’re they’re judge and jury on the street here,” Frattare said. “We want these groups to just stop what they’re doing. We wouldn’t treat our offenders like this. We wouldn’t, you know harass them. We wouldn’t threaten them.”

He says ICAC has more than 100 officers looking for sex predators in Northeast Ohio.

“It’s frustrating to see, you know, our efforts overshadowed by people who have no training, have no experience, are not even law enforcement officers, who believe that they’re protecting children,” Frattare said.

He says first and foremost, the confrontations are a public safety concern.

What if one of the accused pulls a gun?

“Yeah, I mean the environment that they’re creating here, I mean they’re putting the public at risk. They’re putting the public at risk. They’re putting other bystanders at risk,” he said.

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The group tells each accused predator they are going to turn these videos and all the messages over to the police.

The cops do actually show up in one of their videos.

The group yelled, “This man is here to meet a 13-year-old boy.”

The sheriff’s deputy asked, “How do you know?”

One dad responded, “We do this across the country. We’re Dads Against Predators.”

The group has previously accused law enforcement of protecting predators because officials are asking them to stop what they’re doing.

But police and prosecutors said their efforts are no good to them.

Under Ohio law, messages like the ones the group is sending can only be entered as evidence in court if they are from a real child or a real law enforcement officer posing as a child.

“This notion that you know law enforcement isn’t doing anything with this information forgets the whole idea that this information in the first place is not valid. It’s not you know, it’s not legal. It’s not going to hold up in court,” Frattare said.

So why does the group continue to make these videos?

Dads Against Predators did not respond to our interview requests, so we couldn’t ask them that question directly.

In one of the videos, a bystander asked, “Oh this is what you do?”

And a dad responded, “This is my job... We’re dads against predators. We’ve got over 100,000 subscribers on YouTube.”

On DAP’s website, there’s a link to donate to the group and it said business sponsors are “coming soon.”

The website says, “Making money doing this has never been our mission. From logistics to equipment, legal fees, etc... There are a lot of expenses that are involved in exposing these predators. Our goal is to keep growing and catching more and more predators spreading our influence nationwide. We can not afford to do this without your help. We will not beg for donations, but they are definitely appreciated! The more we are able to raise, the more we will be able to expand and use our influence to expose these predators and eventually influence our politicians to change the laws that are letting them walk free.”

Frattare said, “It makes me angry - this notion that you know, these crimes are being monetized or these these ‘catches’ as they call them are being monetized. It really just shows you the nature of what they’re really out there for.”

In 2020, law enforcement agencies in the Sandusky area threatened to prosecute the dads making these videos if they didn’t stop.

As far as we know, no charges were filed against them there.

But, now we’re seeing the group making more of the videos in Cleveland.

Prosecutors said not only are the group’s efforts not helping police, but they are hindering.

Because the men in the videos aren’t being charged, Frattare said they usually go back into hiding, making it more difficult to bring a prosecution later down the road.

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